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D-Day was Thursday 4th April 2024; significant when you write it out like 4/4/24! We had

been waiting; folks were on the list then off; one back again...! But here we were; not even one person late! And Uganda Airlines behaved – punctual, smooth and great service! On arrival, a local tour operator, CHAGGA KILI GUIDES, was ready for us; quickly out of the airport and started loading the travel van! It looked superb and we fussed with the luggage going up the roof! Hmm it’s only white tourists arriving to discover the wild and beauty of Africa engage this way, I always thought. It’s after we set off that we noticed how well refurbished this very OLD van is; a KIGAATI! Who has ever seen one? We managed to overtake ONE old lorry on the way into town!!

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President Museveni’s end of 2021 or New Year 2022 address was in some ways full of hope and promise!

Contrary to global beliefs that there may not be any cure for Covid19 in the near future, the president seems genuinely convinced that we are close to something here in Uganda through our “ancient knowledge of the environment, (we) have discovered substances that seem to cure corona and other viral diseases!”

He is not alone; many Ugandans home (and abroad) believe in the healing powers of Dr Ogwang’s Covidex medicine to the extent that some take it regularly as an anti-Covid19 preventative medicine.

We positively await the clinical trials that could lead to its certification! And also join in the global super-Covid-monies available for grabbing!

At the peak of the second wave in June 2021, the only time Ugandans worried about Covid19, private hospitals minted money and the foresighted pharmacies that had stocked Covidex were selling vials at UGx50,000 or more! And we bought them! Even now when there’s less concern about Covid, testing centres are still collecting big monies for PCR tests ranging from UGx100,000 at Mulago Hospital all the way to 300,000 in private hospitals!

The president officially declared that schools will open on January 10, 2022 thus ending the world’s longest school closure and urged officials to stagger opening dates to avoid traffic congestion.

As predicted, the traffic congestion prevailed! Sometimes we forget that schooling is a complete industry or economy in Uganda.

Traffic jam in Kampala as students return to school

Soon after the presidential address, large sections of the economy ‘woke up!’ Supermarkets were back in business and the so called ‘school requirements’ sold out; salons have long queues as the mandatory back-to-school-haircuts are in demand; farmers can sell beans, maize..!

Let’s not forget that Luwum Street is busy again as schools stock up on stationary; bookshops are back in business and the traffic congestion suggests that fuel stations have also benefitted. When the bars and other entertainment places open up, that will be something else!

However, the Boda-Boda curfew has not been lifted! How absurd! The Boda-Boda is also another economy. One bike can work three shifts in a 24 hours’ period – curfew has derailed that employment! In any case, who’s that person telling our dear president that Boda’s are off the road at 7pm? It’s impressive that the president addressed his mind to traffic! Folks who live or work on Entebbe Road know that this must be one of his least concerns because he enjoys traffic-free journeys on that route daily.

Boda Boda riders in Kampala

Overall, traffic in or around Kampala is ugly and very frustrating. It would be great if he looked into the ‘lost time in traffic’ and how it affects business and the economy!

Incredibly, a formula that calculates lost time exists – look it up on Google or Wikipedia.

Right now, traffic congestion in Ugandan urban areas has reached ‘pandemic’ levels and a discussion on decongesting cities should feature in presidential messages especially when addressing efficiency and economic growth.

Challenge is that many policymakers have no interest in improving the traffic situation because they have a lead car with loud sirens to ease them through the traffic!

Finally, going forward, the president should also address his mind to the labour exportation of disenfranchised Ugandans to the middle east! The ministry of gender and labour call it ‘externalisation of labour’ but some call it exploitation or, even, modern slavery. With thousands of Ugandans flocking to the middle east for work; to earn a living. It seems like the many financial development projects including Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) or Parish Development Model (PDM), don’t work for them hence they seek opportunities yonder even after learning about the harsh environment.

Ugandan youth at the airport leaving for employment

Countries like the Philippines and Ethiopia help by engaging middle east countries to ensure their citizens work in more humane conditions. And Ethiopia has benefitted from remittances from their citizens working in the middle east! A December 2021 BBC documentary podcast, Runaway Maids of Oman, features some young women from Sierra Leone stranded in Oman.

A recent ‘returnee’ to Uganda described her life in the middle east as hell: she earned Ugx one million a month (when she was paid), worked 18 hours daily and was regularly beaten by her employer’s family!

Hundreds of them are trapped in abusive domestic work and are not permitted to leave since they are literally owned by employers. When they eventually leave and return home, there is nothing to show for their efforts!

Diaspora work should also be added on to the list of person development projects; we would then have OWC, PDM, Emyooga, NAADS, Bonna Bagaggawale, Kyeyo…!

Oskar Semweya-Musoke

A Founding Kigo Thinker

A review of the Legislative Agenda of Parliament of Uganda in 2021

On the feisty Capital Radio’s political talk show, #TheCapitalGang, held on January 29 2022, two political protagonists, Hon Thomas Tayebwa, the Government’s Chief Whip and Hon Matias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition in parliament (LoP), who are the drivers of the legislative agenda in Parliament, often with contrarian views, faced off! The show was hosted by a founding member of the Kigo Thinkers, the ambivalent Oskar Semweya-Musoke and ‘gangsters’ Messrs. Ofwono Opondo, the government spokesman, Robert Kirunda, an educationist and advocate plus the joyous Ms. Mary-Anne Nanfuka, a tax expert. A great discussion ensued and here is a Kigo Thinkers' review on the key issues discussed.

Parliamentary achievements in 8 months

Even in its pared-back form, the role of a government chief whip is daunting; it is laced with following up on bills, coordinating ministerial responses and appointing the leadership and members to committees. The work of Hon Tayebwa in 2021 has been commended by many. With a legislative index comprising of 14 bills presented to parliament and successfully coordinating the vetting of all presidential nominees for various positions, there is reason to laud him. Add in the mighty process of submitting and processing the Charter for Fiscal Responsibility and budget framework paper. The NRM man is on fire!

Not so fast, says the LoP, Hon M. Mpuuga whose new, almost non-confrontation style of leadership plus the promotion of “alternative government” stance, has his own list of accomplishments. Beginning with, and for the first time in parliamentary proceedings, presenting an alternative budget framework paper and a charter for fiscal responsibility to the budget committee. This led to the adoption of his minority report massively by the house. Impressive indeed considering that the NUP leadership in parliament is made up of youthful inexperience and many first-time members of parliament.

Members of the NUP Party

Rarely do we witness such shared critical parliamentary achievements.

A case in point was about the oil bills that were a shared triumph for both the government and the opposition without the direct intervention of the head of state. This is indeed putting national interest at the forefront through the use of the ZOPA negotiating strategy.

Even the gangsters agreed that the two principals are doing a great job. Driven by the changing type of opposition politics in parliament that is constructive rather than obstructive and belligerent all the time. However, some voices are raised at the opposition leadership composition with accusations that it is not inclusive of all opposition parties in parliament; an assertion that is vigorously rebutted by Mpuuga!

Let us see how the rest of 2022 plays out including the Auditor General’s report and other political agendas to see if the two principals will still work together.

These chronicles of the nation’s progress are, however, bruised by the recently reported illegal arrests and claims of torture by security agents aimed at activists, opposition members of Parliament and even dissidents living in the country. Despite the LoP demanding due process for the arrested parliamentarians, demanding a fair, quick and transparent trial, the government has not relented and argues that on their day in court, it will adduce the evidence to prove the sceptics wrong. Recent evidence suggests that this may not happen; we await that day in court!

Opposition MPS, Ssegirinya & Ssewanyana claim torture by security agents

Lastly, there is an important group of civil servants who have temporarily discarded military attire and donned suits. Appointed to the civil service to bring order and serve the nation. It's constitutionally allowed to appoint, second and transfer a serving military man/woman into the civil service, who then becomes answerable to public service standing orders and not military law. However, it comes off as a conduit to building loyalty to the differentiated NRM support base rather than relying on capacity development of the civil service protocols.

In conclusion, Kigo Thinkers attempts to add context to the arguments by belabouring two essential elements of the show. First is the need to escalate the quality of debate in parliament even though we are witnessing growing cohesion between the leaders across the political divide. Second, to grow the pride of a nation by ensuring due process is followed when dealing with incarcerated individuals to stop the buildup of polarizing politics.

We all should engage political traction that is constructive. That's normal, and it can keep us sane when life gets overwhelming! So Kigo Thinkers are curious: how do you achieve political traction while pursuing your own political agenda and purpose?

Let us know when you reply to this blog.

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